Dealing with loss and grief is a complicated process that everyone experiences at least once in their lifetime. The loss of a loved one, a relative, or a friend leaves deep cuts that sometimes feel impossible to heal from. However, these emotional wounds aren’t the only things the deceased leaves upon their passing.
What comes with such an unfortunate loss is the responsibility of keeping and processing legal and medical documents your loved one had left. This isn’t an easy task, especially if you’re doing it all by yourself. But with the help of a few suggestions, you can certainly go through with this with more ease and confidence.
Seek Help From A Professional Law Office
You don’t have to work on any decedent’s legal and medical records immediately after their death. It’s an important reminder to take the time needed to process grief by being with your family members and anyone else closely related to the person you lost. While settling these matters is essential, they’re not immediate and shouldn’t disrupt this sensitive and delicate process.
But once you’re ready to do so, the first step would involve locating important documents and then seeking help from a professional law office. Get your legal documents organized by an experienced estate attorney. If you’re the deceased person’s legal representative or executor, you can most definitely work with them to deal with all these legal documents.
Get In Touch With An Estate Attorney
Estate attorneys and their roles as chief managers of these often tenuous legal and medical matters are essential, and they could save you a lot of trouble. If possible, work with the estate attorney who settled the person’s estates, along with their and legal and financial wills.
Speaking of wills, you may want to insist on starting with that. Most attorneys often begin with it as they’re commonly easier to transact. If everything has gone smoothly prior to the person’s death, settling wills and distributing properties and trusts will take little to no time at all since this could be resolved even without the heavy involvement of the court system.
In the event, things don’t go as smoothly like when the decedent’s estates need to undergo a court process called probate, trust that your attorney will settle things as best as they can. Just a helpful reminder that this might cost you a lot of money since their fees would depend on all necessary services they tender. There could also be an instance when you’d consider filing a wrongful death claim that can happen if you believe there’s been negligence or medical malpractice, which may complicate the process even more.
Know Which Documents To Keep
Securing the help of an estate attorney is just one significant step done. But the task is still halfway through as you need to know which documents you need to keep indefinitely.
Estate attorneys recommend that as executor or the deceased person’s indicated trustee or beneficiary, you need to secure the following legal, financial, and medical documents:
- original and copies of birth and death certificates
- original and copies of marriage certificate and/or prenuptial agreements
- divorce decrees (if there are any)
- documents from social security and social security cards
- bank and credit card statements
- insurance documents such as life insurance policies
- income tax returns from at least the last three years
- legal trusts, wills, and testaments
- medical statements and other pertinent medical records such as clinical and personal records, medical prescriptions, medical tests and results, utility bills from the year of death, and authorizations and consents
Other legal papers include the following, whichever may apply or may exist:
- the departed’s final instructions, authorization, and/or designated agent forms
- documents that prove the dead’s consent to be an organ/tissue donor
- court documents for adoptions
- passports, proof of citizenship and/or naturalization, immigration, and/or alien registration papers
During auditing of tax returns, it might be necessary to provide the attorney with any of the legal financial documents listed above. For disputes arising from issues on estates, wills, and trusts, proof of relations such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and even divorce decrees are very important. These help in probate and in establishing factual legal claims in any of the decedent’s written wills or trusts, if there’s one.
All of these are essential documents that aren’t only pertinent to the deceased person but can also help settle their legal and financial affairs.
How Long Do You Need To Keep Them?
There are no definite issues regarding the length of time these documents have to be kept. However, certain documents have limited validity, depending on how it was processed and by which institution. Commonly, you only need to worry about financial documents like income tax returns and documents on tax audits. These should be kept for at least three to six years.
As for any other documents, you should keep them indefinitely and safely. You may never know when they’d be needed again, even after all estate affairs and issues have been resolved.
Securing Their Legal And Medical Records
There are practical ways to secure the dead’s legal and medical records. You can either do this at home or in the safety of banks.
If you choose to keep them at home, the best way is to store them in safe boxes as you would with any of your records and documents. There are many portable safe or file boxes equipped with simple technologies that protect documents from fire and water, which is highly recommended. You can also double their security by putting them in zip locks before placing them inside their safe boxes.
These strategies prepare you in case of any disaster occurring in your area or home. But if you want maximum security and safety, you can opt to take them to your most trusted bank.
Banks typically charge affordable rental fees with their safety deposit boxes. However, one downside to this is that access to the documents placed in safety deposit boxes isn’t easy. Make sure to keep your copies and place hard-to-replicate documents in the safety vaults instead.
Handling any legal affairs is hard work. The time it takes is hard to say, but it usually proceeds for a year and several months. With the help of professional estate lawyers and with patience and some organization skills, you can be assured that the deceased can rest easy with all their will that’s correctly and legally administered.